Reap Vekta: First Look at a British-made carbon frame
New UK-made aero-road bike promises ‘next generation’ frame stiffness and aerodynamics
It’s unlikely that you’ve heard of Reap Bikes but stick around because this could be something special. We’ll get to the punchy performance claims in a moment; first, let’s appreciate the fact that this is British brand producing full monocoque carbon fibre bikes on UK shores.
We don’t mean that to sound in the least bit jingoistic, but when you consider the massive popularity of cycling in the UK, more Brits in the pro peloton than ever, and the country’s rich history of engineering innovation, it’s actually remarkable that this island had been without a brand such as Reap.
Related – The best aero road bikes
The Vekta is a road race bike which Reap claims is engineered to be among the most aerodynamic available, significantly stiffer than any rival, and all while remaining very compliant for its category. It’s offered initially as a rim-brake bike, with a disc-brake model to follow when the groupsets become available later this year.
Now, that’s about as bold a set of claims as you’ll ever see from a big brand, let alone a tiny firm you’ve never heard of. However, Reap has some form here, starting with its founder’s 25 years of advanced carbon composite experience for automotive clients. More directly, Reap’s Vulcan triathlon beam bike was developed by the same team of CFD engineers as designed the UK Sport bikes which dominated the 2012 London Olympics on track and TT, and it has proven itself in the wind tunnel, too.
The Vekta’s frame shapes are derived from the Vulcan’s. While the seat-tube and seatstays are restored for the Vekta, the structure remains related. As Reap says, “We used the technology that made a beam bike ride like a road bike to make a road bike ride better than any before.”
One area where Reap doesn’t make big claims is weight. In fact, Reap says, “We chose to invest a little frame weight to achieve a huge increase in stiffness which results in levels of steering precision and power transfer efficiency you’ve never even dreamed of. We know that you’ll feel it as soon as you stand on the pedals.” So it sounds like the Vekta is aiming for a place among the best aero bikes, rather than aiming to be a ‘quiver-killer’ like the Factor Ostro.
There are two sides to the manufacturing story – where and how. One is simple, the other anything but. The Vekta, like its radical Vulcan sibling, is 100% made on Reap’s premises in Staffordshire, from raw material to painting to assembly. Few brands anywhere can claim that. They have their own giant CNC machines to cut tooling and rapid prototypes.
How it’s made is very noteworthy, for several reasons. First, this a true monocoque, meaning it’s made in one piece, like the €10k BMC Masterpiece, rather than in separate pieces that are bonded together. That’s rare these days. Second, it’s made from extremely high grades of carbon fibre; Reap claims that 80% of the Vekta is Toray M40J, which is several steps higher than the T1100 more commonly seen in top-end bikes. Third, Reap uses moulds made from carbon composite instead of machined alloy. This is the Formula One method and almost unheard of in cycling because, as Reap points out, the moulds last for around 300 frames rather than 3000 and they’re even more expensive to make.
The benefit, Reap says, is that, “It avoids the differential in the coefficient of thermal expansion. An alloy mould expands with temperature at a greater rate than the carbon fibre product inside it, losing some fidelity…We know the difference in outcome easily justifies the cost and effort.”
Lastly, Reap claims to have a trade secret lay-up method which “radically boosts performance”. They’re not giving any hints because, presumably, it isn’t patented, but they’re not shy about the difference it makes. “The Vekta is massively stiffer under power and steering forces,” Reap says. “It isn’t a subtle difference – you will feel it vividly within the first few hundred metres.”
To some that may all sound too expensive to be plausible for a tiny company. But as Reap explains: “Our raw material cost is around 50% higher yet the Vekta is very competitively priced; it’s a reinvestment that we can make because we sell direct and, very unusually, we are our own factory.” So, consider it a little like a farm shop.
Reap doesn’t provide aero data, but says that a prototype Vekta matched “a top TT bike” in the wind tunnel at the University of Southampton, and that the first rideable prototype recorded an impressive CdA of 0.19 when tested by Wattshop’s Dan Bigham at the Derby Velodrome, with pro triathlete Tom Bishop on the pedals. Usually anything below 0.20 is considered very good for a time trial set-up, let alone a road bike [the team at Rouleur does well to dip below 0.3 at the wind tunnel on a road bike…]
The Vekta is offered with a choice of six standard paint schemes, plus the option of custom paint, has clearance for 28mm tyres and is made exclusively for electronic shifting.
Pricing£3500 – Frameset (frame, forks, seatpost/topper, headset, stack system)
£3950 – Frameset with PRO Vibe Carbon Stem and Aero Handlebar
£6450 – SRAM Force eTap AXS with Parcours wheels
£7750 – SRAM Force eTap AXS with ENVE wheels
£8800 – SRAM Red eTap AXS with ENVE wheels
£6950 – Shimano Ultegra Di2 with Parcours wheels
£8250 – Shimano Ultegra Di2 with ENVE wheels
£9400 – Shimano Dura-Ace Di2 with ENVE wheels
Learn more about the Vekta on Reap’s website.